Painted Walls in Paris
“Muirs Peintes” bring color to the Parisian cityscape

By Debra Amundson
Special to The Epoch Times
Apr 26, 2007

ART NOUVEAU ENTRANCE: Architect Hector Guimard was the celebrated Nouveau genius who designed the etched glass and iron entrance at the Paris Metro’s Abbesses subway stop.
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Entrance to Abesses Metro
Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, all can’t miss sights in Paris, but the “A” in Paris stands for art, and there is a lot of it. Museums in Paris are in such abundance—100 and counting—it takes a lifetime of devotion to really know them all. I am still making the rounds to the top twenty.

Montmartre Artist Square
Montmartre Artist Square

No matter what your affection for rare and priceless art there is only so much you can see and still retain an appreciation for it. You can’t become immune to art in the streets of Paris. It is not unusual to find yourself longing for the streets and the real feel of the City of Lights. The museums are full, in part, by the artists that were inspired by Paris.

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Paris has a way of bringing “joie de vie,” joy of life, to the daily activities of ordinary people adding a color that is lacking in your average cityscape. There is art everywhere you look if you are inclined. The sign on the front of a shop, a storefront, hardware on the streets or trompe l’oiel scenes painted on the walls of old buildings. These basic street arts are categorized as “Muirs Peintes,” painted walls, with a liberal interpretation. You won’t be able to go far without possibly seeing a group of men and women in matching neon colored kilts, perhaps a balloon artist in his clown suit twisting his bright balloons into animal shapes for the crowd all the while a cigarette hangs from his lip, or an open market stand stacked with colorful fresh seafood and murals in the Metro. These are examples of street art as much as the women behind the counter in the butcher shop waving her cleaver in an animated gesture of disagreement with a client represents theater of the streets.

Mural on Ceiling
Mural on Ceiling

Montmarte, the old artists quarter, has always been known for it’s lively atmosphere, artists still line the square. I began my pilgrimage to the artists holy sight for my usual, cheesy souvenirs and a sidewalk crepe, steaming hot ad dripping with strawberry jam—the best of both can be found here. The narrow winding streets of Montmarte are lined with souvenir shops bursting at the seams with trinkets to catch the tourists eye. Bright prints of acrylics shout from the store windows and stands of inexpensive copies of muted watercolors jam the doorways and line the busy sidewalk.

Soldier Boy
Soldier Boy

Taking he Metro to the Abbesses stop, Line 12, I was surprised by the collection of murals I discovered. The works were nearly hidden from the crowd that would critique the new bohemian artists of Montmarte. This is not one of the newer showplace stations and this was far the usual graffiti found in dark passages and unmanned corridors. A new generation of artists had emerged bringing fresh art to Montmarte. Taking to the streets with their palettes, the ceiling, and walls, of the Abbesses Metro station had become their canvas

leopard on stairs.The Metro system barely acknowledges the existence of the Muirs Peints in this showcase for talent; it is referred to as simply decorated stairs. Many of these artists prefer to remain anonymous, so dating this collection or crediting it is difficult.

Several of these works have been damaged by thoughtless graffiti. Fortunately most of the murals remain intact. As you rush down the spiral stairs to the platform and maneuver through the crowded station, the colors form a virtual kaleidoscope flashing past. These paintings speak to the variety of artists and writers that once frequented the outlandish Montmarte. There are stories being told in the lively shades of the murals that are an appropriate homage to that colorful bunch.

In Paris, for the price of a $2.00 Metro ticket, you can see the last of some fine Art Nouveau architecture and who knows, perhaps the next Manet, at the Abbesses Metro stop, now turned gallery and museum of the streets.

Debra Amundsen is a writer living in California. Contact her at roseonthe roads.com.

Copyright 2000 – 2007 Epoch Times International

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